Australia’s energy system has entered a period of rapid transformation
Historically, our energy system has been dependent upon a small number of large coal-fired generators positioned close to fuel sources in areas like the Hunter Valley, Central Queensland and the Latrobe Valley. Today, the growth of renewable energy generation, storage and innovative technologies demands a decentralised grid capable of coping with a changing mix of solar, wind and hydro energy.
We recognise the inherent challenges that come with a rapidly changing energy system with many different stakeholder interests.
Land use conflicts
Renewable energy zones or REZs have been nominated across Australia in areas with high quality wind and solar resources. These regions have a long history of food and fibre production and whilst the REZs could help to diversify local and regional economies, they’re increasingly a source of contention for rural communities.
Land use conflicts can arise when renewable generation, storage and transmission infrastructure adversely impact the productive capacity of the land or result in amenity impacts for neighbouring landholders during construction and ongoing operations.
Once constructed, aside from the energy being generated, stored or distributed, there are concerns that renewable generation, storage and transmission infrastructure fails to deliver lasting benefits for rural communities.
Whilst different forms of benefit sharing have been explored (including neighbourhood benefit programs and creation of grant funds), further work is needed to communicate the potential benefits that Australia’s energy transformation presents for rural Australians.
For every challenge, there is also an opportunity. During this period of rapid transformation, we see a range of opportunities for our clients and our communities.
Grid connection and changes in land use
A key driver for the location of renewable energy generation and storage infrastructure is grid connection. Due to the nature of our existing electricity grid, coal-fired power stations and underground and open cut coal mines generally have well-established grid connections.
Due to the availability of large parcels of already disturbed land in existing industrial landscapes, we recognise huge potential in transitioning the land on which these existing coal-dependent assets are located to renewable energy generation and/or storage infrastructure.
Coal mines and coal-fired power stations need access to significant volumes of water. At the end of their operational lives or as production decreases due to falling demand, more water will become available for alternative uses.
The available water could be used to support new hydropower developments or support the production of green hydrogen (via electrolysis), which needs significant water input.
We are currently working alongside clients across Australia’s rapidly transforming energy system.
At EMM our core business is providing planning, environmental, social and community engagement services to develop and optimise major projects within complex and sensitive physical and social environments.
We are industry-leaders in providing strategic advice and planning and environmental services for major generation, storage and transmission infrastructure, and through these activities we have a good understanding of both the technical and political environment that interacts with these projects.